Campus & Community

Six HBS students honored for service to School, society

long read

Six members of the Harvard Business School M.B.A. Class of 2008 have been named winners of the School’s prestigious Dean’s Award. The recipients, who will be recognized by HBS Dean Jay Light at Commencement ceremonies this afternoon (June 5) on the HBS campus, are Shad Z. Ahmed, Jens Audenaert, Johnita W. Mizelle, Jon R. Puz, Jeffrey C. Shaddix, and Justin L. Silver.

Established in 1997, the annual award celebrates the extraordinary nonacademic achievements of graduating students who, as individuals or in teams, have made a positive impact on Harvard, HBS, and/or broader communities. True to the M.B.A. program’s mission, they have also contributed to the well-being of society through exceptional acts of leadership. Nominations come from the HBS community, and a committee made up of faculty, administrators, and students chooses the recipients.

“This award reflects the remarkable activities and achievements of our students outside the classroom,” said Light. “Recipients have set their sights on making our campus and the world a better place. We are happy to honor their accomplishments and confident that this kind of leadership and stewardship will continue throughout their lives.”


Shad Ahmed is passionate about Middle East issues. Before attending HBS, the Stanford graduate worked at McKinsey & Company in Dubai and as consultant at the Association for Development and Enhancement of Women in Cairo, a group dedicated to improving the lives of poor women in Egypt. His zeal for the region also inspired him to do something to give it a higher profile at Harvard University.

Ahmed conceived of the idea for the first University-wide conference showcasing the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the Arab world. Ultimately, he led a team of 25 students from across the University to plan the inaugural MENA Weekend Conference, held last fall. More than 400 professionals, students, academics, and alumni attended, along with top executives and scholars from the MENA region.

The conference included a forum at the Harvard Kennedy School and a business conference and career fair at HBS. It also featured an alumni dinner, where former Harvard Management Company President and CEO Mohamed El-Erian received a Harvard Arab Alumni Association Achievement Award. In addition, a charity party during the conference benefited the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Ahmed worked tirelessly to prepare for the event, creating a conference Web site, organizing speakers, answering dozens of e-mails daily, and securing sponsors. “He poured his heart into the event and, best of all, followed up after it was over,” explained a classmate, adding that Ahmed was “instrumental in getting chairs elected for next year’s conference, thus making it sustainable.” Beyond his Herculean efforts to organize the conference, Ahmed worked with the Harvard Arab Alumni Association to create a fellowship for a student from the Middle East interested in attending HBS.

Ahmed added further value to the HBS experience through his efforts as social co-chair of his section. Last year, the HBS student newspaper saluted him for organizing a variety of social events that created cohesion for members of the section outside the classroom and enhanced the quality of their life at the School.


Harvard Business School prides itself on being a diverse community. And in every classroom in the School hangs a community values statement emphasizing the need for “an environment of trust” and the importance of “respect for the rights, differences, and dignity of others.” Jens Audenaert, an economics graduate of Ghent University and the London School of Economics, has contributed significantly to the implementation of those ideals, winning praise from his classmates and others at HBS for his initiatives and accomplishments as an officer of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Association (LGBTSA), whose mission is to “maintain a supportive environment for LGBT students in the classroom, corporate recruiting, and around campus.” The organization also aims to “increase awareness and understanding of LGBT people at the School and the surrounding business community.”

While serving as the club’s treasurer, Audenaert extended his purview and influence far beyond keeping its books and managing its finances. As a first-year student, he was instrumental in launching “diversity luncheons,” where classmates could ask questions and learn about students who might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Nominations for the Dean’s Award also credited him with developing the concept for a brochure (which he also contributed to and designed) focusing on diversity at HBS and how the presence of LGBT students contributes to the texture of the School community. Distributed by the club to promote its activities to alumni and corporate partners, the 10-page document resulted in a two fold increase in sponsorships. As further testament to its effectiveness, the HBS Admissions Office now uses the brochure in information sessions for prospective students.

During his final semester at the School, Audenaert’s interests led him to pursue two academically related projects under the guidance of HBS faculty members. One, undertaken with a classmate, explores “best practices” in managing diversity at HBS and eight other business schools. The other is leading to the first HBS case study with an openly lesbian protagonist.

As co-chair of the fifth annual Healthcare Club Conference, organized by Harvard Business School students and held on campus this past January, Audenaert played a major role in the success of an event that drew keynote speakers and panelists from companies such as Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Genentech, and McKesson.

With several years of management consulting experience at Bain & Company before attending the HBS, Audenaert frequently acted as an “informal career coach,” advising students interested in following that path. Finally, Audenaert’s bonds with his classmates were strengthened by his dual roles last year as historian of his first-year section and editor of the yearbook. “Jens has tapped into all his passions to elevate the discourse and experience,” a nominator said.


When Johnita Mizelle arrived at HBS in 2006, she brought with her a decade’s worth of experience in the financial world. After graduating from Spelman College with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, she worked in the Equities Division of the Institutional Sales Group at Goldman Sachs before joining The Williams Capital Group, where she opened the firm’s Chicago office and was responsible for all aspects of business development in the Midwest, including corporate finance and institutional brokerage. During her two years at HBS, she has frequently shared her knowledge and experience not only with M.B.A. classmates but also with Harvard undergraduates, impressing one and all with her combination of energy, passion, and charisma.

Mizelle was a major factor in the success of the Veritas Financial Group, founded in the spring of 2007 by three Harvard College students completing their freshman year. Now with nearly 200 members, this undergraduate organization is dedicated to preparing African-American, Latino, and Native American students for careers in finance. To accomplish that, it has overseen the creation of an intensive program that includes seven weeks of training with an HBS student as instructor in one of three areas: private equity, sales and trading, or real estate.

Mizelle prepared the curriculum for the sales and trading track and taught it to 35 students last fall in weekly three-hour classes at HBS. She also gave feedback on homework assignments, provided extra help, graded tests, and put together a career panel of HBS students.

At HBS, Mizelle was an involved member of the Business School’s African American Student Union (AASU), Africa Business Club, Entrepreneurship Club, and Finance Club. As one of her supporters for the Dean’s Award wrote, “Despite her academic workload, Johnita has chosen to actively contribute to these clubs’ objectives and to sustain a legacy of leadership and service.”

Heading a 25-member HBS team, she was integral in the organization of the Finance Club conference, which included 11 sponsoring institutions and more than 200 participants representing 10 business schools. The success of the conference will also have an impact on future members of the club, since the $35,000 in surplus will be devoted to developing an array of educational activities for them.

As chief financial officer of the Entrepreneurship Club, one of the largest student organizations on the HBS campus, Mizelle also dealt with the details of processing new memberships. Working with the AASU, she focused on promoting professional development. During her first year in the club, she spearheaded its career fair, organizing the event and carrying out all marketing efforts. This year, she assembled a panel of finance professionals for the AASU’s annual conference.

In addition, Mizelle served on student panels at HBS to provide her own perspectives on working on Wall Street, helped conduct mock interviews for summer internship candidates in financial services, and advised and inspired other students individually.


Even before Jon Puz and Justin Silver began their first year at HBS, they had already asked how they could become involved in the School’s Healthcare Initiative. Established in 2005, the initiative joins students, faculty, and alumni interested in improving health care and the health care system.

Elected co-presidents of the HBS Healthcare Club last year, Puz, who studied computer science and systems analysis at Miami University (Ohio), and Silver, a finance major at Washington University (St. Louis) with a master’s degree in biochemistry from Georgetown, initiated many new and creative programs.

Focusing on foundational activities and infrastructure, they established the club’s first advisory board, comprising faculty, staff, and alumni. They also created a formal governance document as well as new positions of responsibility, including a philanthropic committee to bolster and institutionalize the club’s charitable activities and health care representatives within each first-year section. The health care reps help communicate club activities and provide first-year M.B.A. students with leadership opportunities. In addition, the duo organized the first health care trek in Boston, visiting sites such as Abiomed, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Genzyme, Highland Capital Partners, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Novartis, and Zoll Medical.

To showcase the talents and dedication of current Healthcare Club members, Puz and Silver were catalysts in creating the first issue of the club’s “biobook.” Well received by prospective students, faculty members, and recruiters, the booklet is now included in HBS admissions materials. The pair also revamped the club’s Web site; expanded the grant program for health care field studies and independent study projects; partnered with the School’s Healthcare Initiative to identify areas for collaboration, co-development, and co-marketing; and led a campaign to raise funds to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which has afflicted a member of the M.B.A. Class of 2007.

Puz and Silver’s leadership and achievements have also extended beyond the Healthcare Club. Puz is co-president of the Midwest Student Association and was selected as an HBS board fellow for Cambridge Cares About AIDS. He was also on the team that, in unprecedented fashion, recently won both the HBS Business Plan Contest (social enterprise track) and the MIT Entrepreneurship Competition (biotech track) for Diagnostics-For-All, a not-for-profit enterprise whose mission is to provide a new generation of point-of-care diagnostic tools for people in the developing world.

Silver was part of the team that represented HBS at the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), an educational event in which M.B.A. students from various schools play the role of venture capitalists assessing actual companies. The students then present their final investment recommendations to judges who are real venture capitalists. After participating in the VCIC, Silver helped establish a similar competition on campus so that other HBS students could benefit from this kind of experience.


Described widely by his peers as an individual who pursues a life in step with his high values and ideals, Jeff Shaddix, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas, is known for his positive outlook and for consistently reaching out to help those around him. It is this genuine passion for service that propelled him for the past two years to spend January in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans and the surrounding region. Part of a program known as the New Orleans Service Immersion, he traveled to the Crescent City with other HBS students, faculty, and staff — many of them involved with the School’s Social Enterprise Initiative — to contribute time and talent to a variety of rebuilding efforts.

In his second trip to New Orleans, Shaddix not only served as co-leader of the immersion, which involved a considerable amount of advance preparation and attention to detail, but built upon his 2007 experience to play a critical role in addressing educational issues affecting the city. He and his team developed and conducted intensive career development sessions for the undergraduate business students of historically black Dillard University, focusing on general career goals, industry opportunities, and internships. The flood-affected environment forced Shaddix and his team to counter unforeseen obstacles such as a damaged information technology and electrical infrastructure, and a greatly diminished group of Dillard professors and staff — not to mention the fact that companies were slow to resume their recruitment efforts in the area.

Those who worked alongside Shaddix in New Orleans commented on his exceptional ability to listen, engage directly with others, set a vision, and achieve consensus among a diverse group to follow that vision. One nominator for the Dean’s Award depicted him as a “master of acknowledgement” who is always ready to mention the contributions and successes of those he works alongside. These are the traits that Shaddix relied on to build a community of trust that was necessary not only to fulfill the goals of the New Orleans immersion but also to make the experience equally profound for the HBS participants and those they helped.

Active in the Christian Fellowship at HBS since his first semester on campus, Shaddix took on a leadership role in that group last fall as its community service coordinator and established a series of events with the Boston Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter. He recently organized a spring clothing drive so that when students move out for the year, they can easily donate clothes to those in need. Shaddix also spearheaded a volunteer consulting project that created a business plan to launch a youth camp this summer for students making the transition from high school to college.